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Feb 3, 2012

Being Ahead of NVIDIA in Graphics Is Essential, AMD Says




If anyone was afraid that AMD would pull the plug on any of its video products, they can rest easy knowing that in this field, at least, the company intends to put all the effort it can muster, instead of canceling plans and letting things stagnate. 

Today is AMD's Financial Analyst Day (February 3, 2012), when the company outlines what it wants to do from now on. 

So far, the feelings caused by its announcements have been mixed, though one cannot truly state that the decisions made public came entirely by surprise. 

On the one hand, the company wants to move swiftly towards truly fused APUs, which can detect on their own when a program can benefit from GPU acceleration. 

On the other hand, the CPU, GPU and APU maker has decided to take a step back from the high-end CPU market and stop trying to match Intel's monsters (like the 10-core Ivy Bridge-EP) each and every time. 

Fortunately, AMD is going to remain diligent on the graphics board and discrete GPU market segments. 

In fact, the company is determined to stay in the lead of this segment and always have products that are better than NVIDIA's. 

“End-to-end leadership in discrete graphics is something that we are very committed to and something we will continue to drive forward as this is a key market and a key way for us to leverage our IP,” said Lisa Su, general manager of global business units at AMD. 

“Graphics technology ends up being the central piece of our entire roadmap. Graphics is a basic building block in terms of parallel processing capability that allows us to accelerate many-many applications. [...] This is really a secret sauce that goes into our APU line.” 

This is a fundamental change of focus, as there was a time when AMD was entirely about CPUs. It is ironic that the ATI brand is gone, but what used to be the ATI business has basically taken over AMD's future.



Sony Xperia NX Lands at NTT Docomo on February 24




We already know that Sony Xperia S won’t be making it to shelves until March. However, Japanese Android fans might be luckier than Europeans, as major carrier NTT Docomo has just confirmed it will launch the Xperia NX on February 24.

The Japanese version of the Sony Xperia S was unveiled last month at the International Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas. NTT Docomo has also stated that customers who wish to pre-order the smartphone will be able to do so beginning February 10.

Unfortunately, no pricing options have been unveiled yet, but the carrier promises more details will be disclosed closer to the pre-order period.

Sony Xperia NX offers similar specs as the Xperia S, but comes with some Japanese-specific features. In addition, the smartphone packs TV launcher, HDMI port and support for microSIM cards.


AMD Trinity Low Voltage APU 3DMark Scores Revealed




AMD’s Trinity ultra-low voltage APUs, that are scheduled to be released by the company in the middle of this year in order to counter Intel’s ULV processors, are expected to provide up to 100% better graphics performance than today’s Ultrabook CPUs.

At the end of the presentation held by Lisa Su, SVP and general manager, Global Business Units at AMD, during the Financial Analyst Day, the Sunnyvale-based chip maker included a series of performance projections for its upcoming chips.

These cover the performance of its chips, as well as that of Intel’s ULV processors, in 3DMark Vantage, where testing has shown that an A6-Series Trinity APU with a 17 Watt TDP scores 2355 points.

According to AMD, this is twice as fast as a Sandy Bridge Core i5 2537M CPU (1158 3D Marks), which is one of the most popular processors to be used in today’s Ultrabooks.

Furthermore, even after taking into account the assumed 30% graphics improvement brought by Ivy Bridge, the A6 ULV accelerated processing unit is still expected to be 56% faster.

When compared with a 25W A10-Series low-voltage APU, this difference grows even bigger, as the AMD chip scores an impressive 3600 points, which represents a 139% performance increase over the projected Ivy Bridge score.

As VR-Zone has revealed, both ULV and LV Trinity APUs will feature quad processing cores and are designed to fit in ultrathins approximately 18mm thick.

The computing cores will go by the name of Piledriver and, much like the current Llano APUs, lack any sort of Level 3 cache memory, as AMD wanted to increase the die area available to the on-board GPU.

Compared to Llano, Trinity APUs will also bring support for a series of new instructions sets introduced with the Bulldozer architecture, such as AVX and AES-NI, as well as for DDR3-2133 memory. AMD’s Trinity APUs are expected to arrive in mid-2012.



Fake Core i7-990X CPU Makes Appearance, Uses LGA 775 Socket




Intel’s as well as AMD’s processors have been counterfeited for a long time now, and most recently a user on the Intel forums has reported that he has received an LGA 775 processor that was marked as a Core i7-990X chip.

The provenience of this CPU was not detailed, but just looking at the processor reveals that it comes in a different packaging, which is significantly smaller than the one used for LGA 1366 parts.

Despite this, the processor heatspreader bears the same markings as those found on the Core i7-990X, including its clocks speed, amount of Level 3 cache memory and QPI speed.

These markings were apparently enough to fool the user, who bought it thinking he actually got a Core i7-990X, although anyone knowledgeable about processors would know this chips wasn’t genuine.

Unfortunately, not every consumer out there has the ability to spot a fake CPU, so fakes like that can easily be sold on eBay and other outlets for a huge profit.


AMD Hondo Tablet APU Arrives in 2012 with 4.5W TDP




AMD has officially announced that 2012 will witness the introduction of a new low-power APU, code-named Hondo, specially developed to be used in tablet devices, which will improve upon the specs of the current Desna Z-01 accelerated processing unit.

AMD made the existence of this chip official during the company’s 2012 Financial Analyst Day, when it also unveiled a series of details regarding the Hondo APU.

Much like the Z-01 accelerated processing unit that it’s designated to replace, Hondo will also use the Bobcat CPU core, which will be paired with a DirectX 11 capable onboard GPU.

According to AMD, Hondo APUs can include either one or two x86 computing cores and will be built on the 40nm node, while its TDP is estimated at a rather low 4.5W.

This is a significant improvement when compared to the 5.9W TDP of Desna, and should help tablets powered by AMD’s next-gen Z-series accelerated processing units to deliver even better battery life.

Going forward, AnandTech revealed that AMD wants to get into the sub-2W market with a new APU design, most probably based on the 2013 Tamesh processor, which will be AMD’s first tablet APU to use a true system-on-a-chip (SoC) design.

From an architectural standpoint, Tamers is a rather interesting chip since it will include a graphics core based on the company’s recently launched GCN architecture, enabling applications to take advantage of the improved computing performance and Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA) of the chip.

Moving back to Hondo, AMD expects this APU to arrive in the second half of 2012, just in time to power some of the first Windows 8 tablets.

AMD hasn’t said who will build these devices, but if the chip maker manages to stick to its schedule, quite a few Hondo-powered tablets should make their arrival in the fourth quarter of this year.



RIM’s Music Store 1.1.0.34 Available for BlackBerry




Owners of BlackBerry smartphones out there can now download and install a new application on their devices, the Music Store client. 

The app will provide them with fast access to a variety of songs, regardless of their location. They will be able to find new music, purchase it, integrate it with playlists, and more. 

The application is available for download in the BlackBerry App World today, compatible with all devices powered by OS flavor 5.0.0 or higher. 

It also delivers browsing capabilities, the ability to have music stored in the cloud via 7Digital Music Locker, and the downloading of songs via Wi-Fi or 3G networks. 

Moreover, the app will enable users to keep friends posted on the songs they are listening to. It offers fast access to BlackBerry Messenger, Email, Text Messaging, Socials Feeds, Facebook and more.


Olympus OM-D Retro-Looking ILC Camera Pictured




With just a few more days to go until the Olympus OM-D becomes official, the first picture of this keenly awaited camera made its way to the Web.

While it definitely doesn’t reveal too much, the image does show the top part of this retro-looking mirrorless snapper, which is said to include a 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor with a built-in 1.44m dot electronic viewfinder (EVF). 

A water sealed magnesium body and a brand new auto-focus (AF) system will round up the specs list, together with a 3-inch 610k dot OLED screen that 43 Rumors suggests can be tilted, so you can have a better look at the images you want to capture.

All these however will come at a price, as it seems that Olympus’ interchangeable lens creation will retail for somewhere in the region of $1,300, about 989 EUR.


Dell Alineware M18x R2 Gaming Notebook Packs Super-Strong GPUs




Dell will soon launch a new notebook from the Alienware series, the line known for being both powerful and good-looking.

Bearing the name of M18x R2, it will be so powerful that it will barely break a sweat when playing a game, regardless of how hardcore the graphics settings are.

The again, when a PC has mighty, next-generation graphics inside, that goes without saying.

Alineware M18x R2 actually goes beyond that: it will have options for SLI or CrossFire X multi-GPU setups too.

The strongest AMD graphics component that can be part of its spec sheet is the Radeon HD 7970M, while NVIDIA fans can choose between GeForce GTX 660M and GTX 675M (only the latter can be in SLI). An optional WirelessHD card is tossed in for good measure too.

The super-high price has not been disclosed yet.



RIM Promises Free PlayBooks to Android Developers




Canadian mobile phone maker Research In Motion is trying to lure more developers into coming up with applications for its Blackberry PlayBook, and is offering free devices to those who do deliver software for it. 

To be more precise, the company is informing Android developers that there are free PlayBook devices available for them, if they launch applications compatible with its tablet PC. 

It should not be too hard for Android developers to come up with applications that would fit the tablet PC, the handset vendor explains. 

“As an Android developer, you have a couple of tools you can use to help you convert your apps for the BlackBerry PlayBook OS. You can use these tools to verify that your app is compatible with the BlackBerry PlayBook OS, repackage your app, and sign your app,” RIM notes on its website. 

Those who will launch one such app in the BlackBerry App World by February 13th will get a free device, Alec Saunders, VP developer relations, notes on its Twitter account.

The company also explains that all developers who will submit applications to the App World between now and February 13th will be provided with the free tablet PC. 

“There has been a lot of excitement today about the BlackBerry PlayBook developer promotion for Android developers, as tweeted by Alec Saunders, VP Developer Relations,” RIM continues.

“Further details about the promotion will be posted on our developer site as soon as possible, but the plan is to provide one free 16GB BlackBerry PlayBook to every registered BlackBerry App World vendor who converts their Android app for use on the BlackBerry PlayBook and submits it to BlackBerry App World between February 2, 2012 and February 13, 2012.”

Some more info on what the porting of Android applications to the BlackBerry PlayBook is all about can be found in the video embedded at the bottom of this article. Further details are available over at RIM.



Gigabyte MSH61QI Thin Mini-ITX Motherboard Supports Intel LGA 1155 CPUs




Better known to embedded computing developers than to end-users, the thin mini-ITX form factor gained quite a lot of ground in the last couple of months, so Gigabyte has decided to take advantage of this trend with the release of the GA-MSH61QI motherboard for Intel LGA 1155 processors.

Just as its name implies, the Gigabyte board is built around Intel's H61 chipset, which offers a basic set of features for entry-level Sandy Bridge systems, as well as support for the integrated graphics found inside Intel's CPUs.

Speaking of CPUs, the GA-MSH61QI is compatible with all processor models that have a TDP of 95W or lower, and also supports up to 8GB of DDR3 memory clocked at 1333MHz via two SODIMM slots placed right above the LGA 1155 socket.

The rest of the expandability options include a PCI Express x16 slot, one full-size and one half-size mini-PCI Express connectors, as well as two SATA 3Gbps ports for installing various storage devices, according to TechPowerUp.

Moving to the back of the GA-MSH61QI, we find a pair of USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet connector, a 3.5mm audio jack, as well as an HDMI video connector. Power is delivered to the board via a 12V DC input jack that connects to an external power brick.

An additional LVDS interface is available via an on-board header, and users also have the option of connecting a 7.1-channel audio sound system, thanks to an external digital S/PDIF header driven by the Realtek ALC892 audio codec.

According to Gigabyte, the 25mm high GA-MSH61QI is destined to be used inside all-in-one systems, compact form factor desktops, and home theatre PC systems.

No information regarding pricing was provided, but the motherboard is already listed on Gigabyte's website, in the embedded solutions section.


Nethra Intros HD 1080p60 Visual and Computing System-on-Chip




Nethra has just announced the impending availability of a system-on-chip, dubbed NI-5035, which can assume a variety of roles.

The NI-5035 is the first member of the N1-5 family of visual platform System-on-Chip (SoC) devices and is composed of several parts.

One is an advanced Image Signal Processor, the second is a High Definition H.264 Codec and the third is a Video processor.

The newcomer boasts full hardware acceleration and supports multiple encoding stream in up to 1080p at 60 Hz.

Nethra made it possible for the SoC to be used in everything from action/sports/activity camcorders to network IP security applications and even surveillance cameras and IP encoders.

“Unlike DSP based solutions available today, the NI-5035’s unique true hardware-accelerated architecture enables a much lower power profile and far greater control over the visual pipeline with the lowest-possible latency possible,” said Ramesh Singh, Nethra Imaging’s CEO. 

“Nethra’s approach contrasts with other SoCs that utilize more power-hungry embedded DSP cores for the imaging and video ‘heavy-lifting’, thereby limiting user control and application power optimization.“

Nethra put special emphasis on the high quality imaging capabilities of the SoC and how they are possible even when the power consumption is low and the bill of materials (BOM) is more flexible than ever.

“Nethra’s new SoC delivers outstanding image quality along with fast, smooth High Definition 1080p60 resolution and ultra-low-power consumption,” Singh said.

“We will see this chip enable innovative, new form factor, super compact HD video cameras with long battery life, video electronic image stabilization and excellent image and video quality.”

The NI-5035’s wide dynamic range pipeline can produce High Definition 1080p60 video and capture even in low light and bright light conditions.

Pricing information can be disclosed after sending an e-mail to info@nethra.us.com, or by calling Nethra Imaging at (408) 257-5880. Availability is set for Q2 of 2012.


MSI Teases the Z77A-GD45 Motherboard for Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs




Two more months separate us from the launch of Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors, so motherboard makers are already hard at work preparing their new solutions based on Intel’s 7-series chipsets.

MSI is of course among them, and just now is putting the final touches on the Z77A-GD45, which will become one of the most budget-friendly Ivy Bridge motherboards in the company’s arsenal.

Specs wise, the GD45 will include all the MSI features that we have grown accustomed to, such as Military Class III components, OC Genie II and ClickBIOS II, to name just a few.

Sadly, this is all that we can tell right now judging from the picture provided by eTeknix, but more info should be available soon.

Until that happens, you can check out the GD45’s older brother, the Z77A-GD65, which has already been pictured in full.


Photoshop CS6 Flaunts GPU-Driven Liquify Tool




In the past few days we’ve been fed snippets of what’s to come into Photoshop CS6. It’s been only two videos but I’m already sold for the new version.

The first video shows the progress that has been made in Camera Raw, which is used by Brian O’Neal Hughes, senior product manager, to boost shadows and recover highlight information or paint tones and reduce noise with the adjustment brush.

In the second video, however, things are focused on performance improvements in Photoshop CS6, and Liquify tool in particular, which is backed up by hardware acceleration in order to complete the job. Using the GPU-boosted tool you will be able to edit the image in real time, as the video above shows.

Another feature presented by Zorana Gee, Photoshop product manager, in the second sneak peak is the ability to save images in the background, allowing you to work on other pictures.

AMD Slows Down in Launching Powerful CPUs




If anyone was looking forward to AMD kicking things into high gear on the high-end CPU market, they will have to live with the disappointment of learning that nothing of the sort is going to happen. 

That is not to say that the Sunnyvale, California-based company will completely stop making high-end CPUs (central processing units). 

Nevertheless, the company revealed, during the Financial Analyst Day, that it would be slowing down the rate at which new such chips turned up. 

Currently, the FX-series next-generation Vishera CPUs, based on Piledriver x86 cores, are scheduled for official availability in November-December this year, or a bit sooner, but still in the second half of 2012. 

They will be faster than current FX units, thanks to a higher number of instructions per clock, and may or may not hold their own against Intel's Ivy Bridge. 

The company did not cancel these plans, but it did make it rather clear that successors would not be launched in 2013. 

That means that Advanced Micro Devices won't even bother trying to match Intel's Ivy Bridge-E and Hasswell chips. Knowing what kind of monster the 10-core Ivy Bridge-EP is, we aren't surprised at all. 

The same tactic goes for the server market: AMD will not release any high-end server CPUs in 2013, and the 10-core and 20-core Opterons have already been cancelled

At this point, it is quite obvious that most of the bets are being placed on the graphics and APU businesses. 

The corporation will no doubt benefit the most if it can hold to its plans to make “fully” fused APUs by 2014

Intel is doing its best to improve its graphics as well, though, so AMD will really have to stay ahead in this area. 

On a related note, AMD has stated that it sees dominance in the graphics sector as critical for its future success. Stay tuned for more on that subject.


AMD 2013 Roadmap Also Gets Detailed, Includes Tamesh, Kabini and Kaveri APUs




Together with its APU and CPU plans for 2012, AMD also made public the company’s 2013 processors roadmap, which includes the Tamesh, Kabini and Kaveri accelerated processing units fabricated using 28nm process technology.

The most important change introduced by AMD with its 2013 APUs is the move to the GCN graphics architecture, which is expected to bring an important increase in computing performance.

According to AMD, this advanced graphics architecture will be used in all of its 2012 APUs, including the low-power Tamesh processor targeting the tablet space.

Destined to come as a replacement for the 2012 Hondo APU, Tamesh will use a system-on-a-chip (SoC) design and will include the “Jaguar” low-power x86 cores.

The chip will also take advantage of the Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA) made possible by the transition to a GCN-based GPU.

Moving to the low power category, here the Kabini APU replaces Brazos 2.0 featuring the same SoC design and “Jaguar” x86 cores as the Tamesh tablet accelerated processing unit.

In the performance processor category, AMD’s third-generation APU, code named Kaveri, will employ “Steamroller” (the evolution of AMD’s “Piledriver” core architecture) x86 cores for enhanced instructions per clock and power advantages.

Applications that take advantage of GPU acceleration will also be able to harness the power of the Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA) of the chip.

As far as the company’s high-end desktop processors are concerned, AMD chose not to provide us with any details, although AnandTech seems to believe that we will see a Steamroller based derivative at some point in the future.

All of the chips AMD plans to introduce in 2012 will be manufactured using the 28nm production process, but AMD hasn’t mentioned who will build these APUs for them.



Windows Phone 8 with Multicore Support, Better Cameras




Later this year, Microsoft is expected to bring to the market a new flavor of its mobile operating system, one that would arrive on shelves under the name of Windows Phone 8. 

Rumors on what the platform could bring to devices have been around for some time now, but nothing has been officially confirmed on the matter until now. 

Today, however, we can get a better picture of what’s to come in Windows Phone 8, courtesy of leaked details that emerged over at Pocketnow

A video featuring Joe Belfiore, senior vice president and Windows Phone manager, and intended for partners of Nokia, unveiled the main features and enhancements that Microsoft planned for the upcoming OS flavor. 

Thus, we should expect support for dual-core application processors in Windows Phone 8, along with NFC capabilities to provide users with access to more mobile payment services. 

Moreover, the upcoming operating system will bring along support for more screen resolutions (hopefully HD screens will also be included there), as well as for removable microSD memory cards. 

Most of the other smartphone platforms out there offer support for microSD cards, save for iOS, and Windows Phone will have it as well soon. 

Additionally, there will be a series of enhancements brought to the cameras on Windows Phone devices, as well as Data Smart functionality for users to save more money. 

Various changes will be brought to the new Windows Phone flavor at the software level as well. Thus, users will benefit from Skype and SkyDrive integration, and from the capabilities the next gen Internet Explorer for mobile has to offer to them. 

Overall, Windows Phone 8 should prove a great update over the existing version of the platform, especially since it will bring mobile phones closer to desktops, courtesy of tight connections with Windows 8. 

Specific info on when Windows Phone 8 might arrive have not emerge as of yet, but we would not be surprised to see it made available along with Windows 8 sometime this fall.


10-Core Intel Ivy Bridge-EP CPU Tested, Has 20 Threads




As Sandy Bridge CPUs were followed by Sandy Bridge-EP units, Ivy Bridge central processing units will get similar successors, one of which has actually been tested.

The engineering sample of the Ivy Bridge-EP CPU that got put through its paces not long ago is the sort of thing that will leave onlookers starry-eyed.

Intel probably didn't mean for this chip to land in the hands of someone so eager to publish the results for all to see.

Nevertheless, a person in Taiwan did get a hold of it somehow and has big and clear screenshots to prove it (CPU-Z, Windows 8 task manager, the works).

Quite simply, nothing on the consumer CPU market has even come close to the sort of performance that this thing is bound to demonstrate.

Of course, it was obvious that an Ivy Bridge-EP CPU would blow even the best Ivy Bridge units out of the water, but the magnitude of it all wasn't exactly apparent.

The Ivy Bridge-EP/EX engineering sample has 10 physical cores, but its Hyper-Threading technology allows for 20 logical cores to be enabled at the same time.

In other words, the operating system may as well be working with 20 CPUs at once, for all it knows.

Spec-wise, the processor has a clock speed of 2.8 GHz, 30 MB of shared L3 cache and 256 KB L2 cache per core.

A WPrime test returned a score of 1,024M in 158.5 seconds, while Fritz Chess scored 41.78X relative speed.

All this happened while only eight of the 20 threads were utilized, which makes one wonder if there even are benchmarking suites that can force this beast to actually show some effort.

Of course, there are no programs or games that can use so many cores, except, perhaps, video conversion and other professional applications.

People shouldn't start raving just yet, of course. After all, Intel hasn't even launched the “regular” Ivy Bridge LGA1155 chips (they are scheduled for April, 2012).



Samsung Galaxy Y DUOS and Galaxy Y Pro DUOS Go on Sale in Europe




Unveiled two months ago, Samsung Galaxy Y DUOS and Galaxy Y Pro DUOS are slowly going on sale in Europe. The smartphones have just been launched in Russia and Greece, but the price tags are very different. 

While the Galaxy Y Pro DUOS can be purchased for only 140 EUR (180 USD) in Greece, the same device is worth no less than 250 EUR (330 USD) outright in Russia. Samsung Galaxy Y DUOS is also available in Russia for only 200 EUR (262 USD) off-contract.

Both Android-based smartphones are dual-SIM, but are aimed at different targets. While the Galaxy Y Pro DUOS comes with a full QWERTY keyboard, the Galaxy Y DUOS sports a large 3.14-inch touchscreen display.

Another difference between the two smartphones is the battery. The Galaxy Y Pro DUOS embeds a slightly better 1350 mAh Li-Ion battery, whereas the Galaxy Y DUOS features a 1300 mAh Li-Ion battery.

It is also worth mentioning that Samsung Galaxy Y Pro DUOS packs a VGA front-facing camera for self-portraits and video calls, while the Galaxy Y DUOS lacks a secondary camera.

Samsung also confirmed that the Galaxy Y DUOS featured dual standby capabilities, allowing users to keep both SIM cards active at the same time. For the time being, it’s unclear whether the same feature is available for the Galaxy Y Pro DUOS as well.

Android 2.3 Gingerbread aside, both smartphones run Samsung TouchWiz user interface and pack 512MB of ROM, 384MB of RAM and microSD card slot for memory expansion (up to 32GB, 2GB memory card included).

Samsung Galaxy Y Pro DUOS has a small 2.6-inch capacitive touchscreen that supports 400 x 240 pixels resolution, while the Galaxy Y DUOS features a larger 3.14-inch capacitive touchscreen display (240 x 320 pixels resolution).

The smartphones will probably be released in other European countries this month, but there’s no telling which ones will get these dual-SIM smartphones next, so stay tuned for more updates on the subject.


PowerColor Builds LCD HD7970 Liquid Cooled AMD Graphics Card




Over the past week, the video market has been filled with news about AMD's latest graphics card, Radeon HD 7950, but PowerColor is now going back to the stronger HD 7970, even giving it liquid cooling.

Going right to the point, PowerColor has revealed the LCD HD7970, a new iteration of the AMD Radeon HD 7970 graphics adapter.

Alas, not all is known about it, particularly the clock frequencies and the price.

Fortunately, word is that PowerColor will provide these final details by the end of the month (February, 2012).

That said, the single-slot waterblock from EK will make it easy for multi-GPU setups to be established on any motherboard with CrossFireX support.

That is just a very useful side benefit, though, as the real advantage is, obviously, the greatly reduced operating temperature.

It is easy to assume that the GPU (graphics processing unit) and the memory (probably) will be factory-overclocked by more than a little.

For those that want a starting point in their speculations, the stock Radeon HD 7970 board has the Tahiti GPU clocked at 925 MHz, and the 3GB of GDDR5 VRAM at 5.5 GHz.

PowerColor's graphics adapter is equipped with 2,048 stream processors, as well as HDMI, DVI and dual mini DisplayPort connectors.

There is also support for the PCI Express Gen 3.0 interface, as well as DirectX 11.1 graphics technology.

For those that need an update or reminder, DirectX 11.1 performs faster tessellation and DirectCompute tasks than the first release of DirectX 11.

The rest of the specs are no doubt the same as those of the original video controller brought forth by the Sunnyvale, California-based company: Shader Model 5.0, ultra-high resolution texture streaming, EyeFinity 6 support, AMD App Acceleration, AMD HD3D technology and pretty much everything else listed on the official product page.


Need for Speed: The Run Gets New PC Patch, Includes Free Cars




Electronic Arts has just deployed a fresh patch for Need for Speed: The Run on the PC platform, via its Origin service, that solves a variety of problems and even adds new cars.

NFS: The Run impressed with its gameplay and, despite its lackluster story, managed to delight quite a few racing game fans across platforms like the PC, PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360.

Now, after EA and developer Black Box deployed the Italian DLC car pack for The Run on consoles, they’ve now released a patch for the PC version of the racing game. 

The update, besides fixing quite a lot of issues encountered by players, adds a few free cars, in the form of those that appeared in the Signature Edition DLC, which was released for consoles late last year.

For a full list of the things included in the patch, check out the changelog below, straight from EA.

General:

  • 30 FPS cap is disabled when v-sync is set to OFF in advanced display settings
  • Miscellaneous fixes for gamepad and peripheral support
  • Tweaked reset behavior for a number of tracks in The Run where resets seemed too close to the main race route


Single Player:

  • When players go off track, they will be reset back onto the track instead of at the last checkpoint. Crashes will still result in a reset to the last checkpoint. 
  • Fixed issue where Autolog split time HUD would sometimes disappear after a vehicle reset 


Challenge Series:

  • Updated car images will now be displayed in Challenge Series loading screen


Multiplayer:

  • Added Quick Match option from multiplayer menu
  • Players now have the option to mute VOIP of other players in multiplayer sessions
  • Reduced unrealistic behaviors when multiplayer opponents drive off-road or collide with world objects
  • Fixed issue where sometimes icons wouldn’t display for playgroup members in the intermission screen
  • Animated recently completed solo and group objectives in the intermission screen
  • Display active objectives in the pre-race loading screen
  • Tabs will now auto-cycle during the intermission screen, manually tabbing between screens will disable the auto cycling.
  • Countdown timers in MP will flash orange in the last 5 seconds
  • Will still display session rewards for players that finish the last race in a session after all other players have left the session.
  • Hide the empty race results and session standing tabs in the intermission screen when joining a race in progress


Autolog:
Gallery – Fix to extend scroll bar for entire length of gallery
News – Fixed alignment of news list and top of news image
Friends - Now displays whether a friend is online, joinable or offline in player badge
Friends – Added option to join a friend’s multiplayer session from the friends list, if friend is in a joinable session.
Photo – Now displays the proper error message when a photo upload fails due to being out of space.

Signature Edition Booster Pack cars:

  • Puppet Chevy El Camino SS
  • Fatlace Nissan Skyline 2000GT-R
  • Venom Nissan 370Z
  • Scoundrel Subaru Impreza WRX STi
  • Victory BMW M3 Sport Evolution
  • Nicolas Mazda RX-7
  • Mega Nissan GT-R (R35)
  • Falken Porsche 911 GT3
  • Conroy Ford GT

The new PC patch for Need for Speed: The Run is now available for download via EA’s Origin digital distribution service.


Asus Unleashes Radeon HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP Video Card




About two weeks after the first pictures of the Radeon HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP graphics made their way to the Web, Asus sent out an official press release announcing the launch of this highly customized graphics card which comes with a 1GHz factory overclocked GPU.

Much like its predecessors, the DirectCU II edition of the HD 7970 features a massive tri-slot cooler, a highly customized PCB and a series of other overclocking optimizations.

These include a series of voltage measurement points, a 12-phase VRM circuitry with supper alloy caps and chocks, as well as a special SAP capacitor added to maximize overclocking headroom, according to Asus.

The tri-slot cooling system is also just as impressive, since it uses two 100mm fans sitting on top of a massive aluminum heatsink, while most of the PCB is covered with an aluminum heatspreader.

Asus says its design keeps the core 20% cooler than AMD’s reference design, which allowed the company to push the Radeon HD 7970 over its reference frequencies, so the GPU will be clocked at an impressive 1GHz while the memory will work at 1400MHz (5.6GHz effective).

According to Legit Review, the Asus Radeon HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP should be available online later today and will carry a suggested retail price of $599 (about 456 EUR).

AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 is based on the Tahiti XT core, which includes 32 Compute Units for a total of 2048 stream processors that are joined by 128 texture units, 32 ROP units and a 384-bit wide memory bus.

This is linked to 3GB of DDR5 video memory and the GPU is manufactured using TSMC’s advanced 28nm node, which enables it to be one of the coolest and most energy efficient high-end graphics card around.




AMD Details 2012 Roadmap: Trinity, Hondo and Vishera Get Ready for Launch




During the company’s 2012 Financial Analyst Day, AMD outlined its APU and CPU strategy for 2012, thus confirming the Brazos 2.0, Hondo and Vishera processors, together with their approximate launch schedule.

Out of the three, Brazos 2.0 will be the first chip to see the light of day, as these APUs are scheduled to arrive in the first half of 2012.

Much like the first revision of the Brazos platform, this new iteration of AMD’s low-end APUs also targets the essential desktop and notebook space, but AMD says that it will deliver increased CPU and GPU performance, longer battery life, and a bevy of integrated I/O options.

The AMD Steady Video technology included in these APUs will also receive a series of improvements, while TDPs will range between 9 and 18 Watts.

After the Brazos 2.0 release, AMD will move its attention towards Trinity, which the company says is on track for a mid-2012 introduction. Trinity will take the place of the Llano APUs in the company’s lineup.

Compared to their predecessors, these chips will be based on the Bulldozer-derived Piledriver core (up to four such cores can go in a Trinity APU), and will feature next-generation DirectX 11-capable graphics technology.

According to AMD, these changes are expected to deliver up to 50% more compute performance than Llano, while also delivering superior entertainment potential, longer battery-life and better graphics.

Unlike Llano, Trinity will also be available in an ultra-low power option with a TDP as low as 17W, which targets ultrathin computers.

In 2012, AMD will also introduce the ultra-low voltage Hondo APU for tablets. These low-power (power maxes out at 5W TDP) APUs will have “Bobcat” CPU cores and support DirectX 11 technology in a BGA or pin-less packaging and are expected to arrive in the second half of 2012.

Finally, on the desktop platform side of things, Vishera will replace the Komodo CPU which will maintain compatibility with the current AM3+ motherboards.

As AMD revealed, Vishera processors bring an important number of updates including up to eight Piledriver cores, higher frequencies, improved instruction per clock performance, advanced instruction sets (thus also increasing application performance), additional DDR3 memory support and next-generation AMD Turbo Core Technology. Vishera should be launched in the second half of 2012.

During the 2012 Financial Analyst Day, AMD also presented its processors plans for 2013, which we'll cover in a future article.



AMD Will Have “Full” CPU and GPU Fusion in 2014




Advanced Micro Devices, having just changed its Opteron CPU plans, has reportedly made a very intriguing promise in regards to its Heterogeneous Computing roadmap and the year 2014. 

One of the main disadvantages of AMD's APUs (accelerated processing units) is that they cannot be used properly unless the software is specifically designed for them. 

The current limitations of the architecture dictate that x86 and Radeon stream processing cores use dedicated memory, which is not famous for efficiency. 

For this reason, the software has to know  on its own when and how to use the resources available in the accelerated processing (APU) unit of a PC. 

In other words, those highly parallel stream processors that are part of the integrated GPU can't accelerate tasks unless the application itself has the necessary functionality. 

In 2014, AMD says this will no longer be an issue and that no programs will need special support features anymore. 

More specifically, according to this report from X-bit Labs, the corporation expects to fully sync together the x86 and GPU components. 

Basically, APUs will know on their own when a program will benefit from GPU acceleration, so they will make the switch between the x86 cores and the stream processors independently. 

"Ultimately, as we complete our roll-out of heterogeneous system architecture, we will have a very fine-grain control of where is computing [performed], it is an optimization," said Mark Papermaster, chief technology officer of AMD, according to X-bit Labs

Broader application support is just one of the advantages of this “true” heterogeneous computing. Another asset of the ability to dynamically choose between cores will be higher power efficiency. 

Alas, 2014 is a fairly long time off, but there is a clear silver lining: previously, Advanced Micro Devices did not expect to complete these “fully fused” processors before 2015. 

Now we just have to see how the new UPU architecture, which has a true hybrid processing/graphics cores, compares. For those unaware, UPU is the first truly new CPU architecture released in the past 20 years.




Galaxy S II Gets New Ice Cream Sandwich ROM




Samsung promised it would update its highly-acclaimed Galaxy S II units to Ice Cream Sandwich operating system sometime in March. However, until then, owners can play with some of the unofficial Android 4.0 builds that are now available online. 

The folks over at XDA Developers are doing a great job delivering customized Ice Cream Sandwich ROMs for a wide range of handsets.

This time it was SamMobile that managed to bring another unofficial Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich ROM for Samsung Galaxy S II.

According to them, the new alpha/beta build is more stable than other versions. In addition, the guys over at SamMobile claim that this ROM is ready for daily use, unlike the previous LP6 build. Some of the positive changes included in this build are detailed below:
  • Interface: Kind of 3D effect when scrolling;
  • Battery: Lots better than early ones;
  • Faster: Feels the same as LP6;
  • Touch: Same as LP6;
  • Overall: Better score in our eyes than LP6;
  • Facelock: Same as LP6 working fine;
  • Task: Same as version LP6.

Samsung Galaxy S II owners who already flashed this Ice Cream Sandwich ROM based on Android 4.0.3 report that TouchWiz user interface is still there, which might be annoying for some users.

Although this alpha/beta ROM features a stock launcher with less functionality, there’s always the option to install a better looking one.

Aside from that it appears that the unofficial ROM is stable and everything is working fine with a minor exception: the update notification keeps hanging around on top of the display.

Keep in mind that this ROM requires users to do a hard reset and set their APN in order to be able to use data connection (2G or 3G). Users will have to add the APN settings manually.



AMD Cancels 10-Core and 20-Core Chips, Changes Opteron CPU Plans




Advanced Micro Devices has announced a decision to change its roadmap for server processing units, though it did not give a specific reason for this.

The update plans do away with certain chips and, one might say, slows down the rate at which new Opterons get to the selling stage.

One change is that the existing server platform will remain in effect throughout both 2012 and 2013, meaning that AMD-based systems won't be able to adopt new features as fast as the prior roadmap implied.

Also, Sepang units with up to 10 cores, as well as Terramar chips of up to 20 cores, have been effectively canceled, even though they were supposed to show up this year, alongside G2012 and C2012 server platforms.

Now, though, the Sunnyvale, California-based company is readying Abu Dhabi microprocessors with up to 16 Piledriver cores, for 4-socket servers.

Furthermore, the Seoul CPU is on the way as well, this one featuring up to 8 similar cores. It is intended for 2-socket servers.

There is also talk of the Delhi Piledriver for single-socket machines. It boasts up to 8 cores of its own.

All these chips, and more, will be constructed on the Globalfoundries 32nm SOI manufacturing process.

“AMD’s strategy capitalizes on the convergence of technologies and devices that will define the next era of the industry,” said Rory Read, president and CEO, AMD. 

“The trends around consumerization, the Cloud and convergence will only grow stronger in the coming years. AMD has a unique opportunity to take advantage of this key industry inflection point. We remain focused on continuing the work we began last year to re-position AMD. Our new strategy will help AMD embrace the shifts occurring in the industry, marrying market needs with innovative technologies and become a consistent growth engine.”

Whether or not this all works for the best is debatable, for a company that has 5-6% of the server market and, thus, can't really afford stagnation, or to rely overmuch on the 32nm SOI technology that is anything but free of problems.


Samsung Preps Champ Deluxe and Champ Deluxe DUOS Phones




South Korean mobile phone maker Samsung is getting ready to launch two new affordable handsets in the Champ family, namely Champ Deluxe and Champ Deluxe DUOS

Basically, they are the same device, only that the DUOS version offers support for dual-SIM configurations, expanding the capabilities users can benefit from. 

Both mobile phones arrive on shelves with EDGE support (no 3G capabilities), and run under Samsung’s proprietary OS. 

These handsets also pack a 2.8-inch QVGA touchscreen display, 1.3MP camera on the back with support for video recording, Bluetooth 3.0, a microSD card slot with support for up to 16GB of additional storage space, a 1000mAh battery, and Samsung’s TouchWiz Lite 2.0 UI.

Samsung has yet to confirm official details on the availability and pricing of Champ Deluxe and Champ Deluxe DUOS. Rumor has it that they should both land on shelves in the near future.


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